President Jacob Zuma and Chinese President Xi Jinping

CAPE TOWN - The department of small business development hopes to see small businesses and cooperatives become the biggest beneficiaries of economic co-operations between South Africa and China, its director general Edith Vries said in Guanghzou on Thursday.

Addressing China's International Small and Medium Enterprises Fair (CISMEF), Vries urged greater collaboration between the two countries on small business development. 

“As South Africans, we are keenly aware that working in isolation, we will not be able to see the optimal potential of the SMME sector. It is in this context that we agreed to be co-hosts of this year’s CISMEF,” she told delegates at the fair, which runs until Friday in the capital of China's southeastern Guandong province . 

“Small businesses must spearhead imports and exports from and between the two countries,” she added.

Vries further urged Chinese small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) to join hands with South African entrepreneurs, particularly the nation's young entrepreneurs.

“We have established the INVEST SA facility to ease the entry and regulatory environment for investors. This is a practical manifestation of our message that South Africa is open for business”.

Vries explained that the government of South Africa has identified infrastructure development, trade relations, and small business development as catalysts to boost the country’s economic growth and development.

“The South African government and state agencies have invested more than R1 trillion in infrastructure between 2009 and 2014, largely in energy, road, rail, ports, public transport, bulk water and sanitation, hospitals, basic and higher education infrastructure and innovative projects such as the Square Kilometre Array and Meerkat telescopes."

She said her department was encouraged by the fact that government's infrastructure spending plans were attracting growing interest from the investment community.

Vries told her Chinese audience that the National Development Plan (NDP) identified SMMEs and Cooperatives as important drivers of economic growth and job creation.

“The NDP views SMMEs and cooperatives as vehicles for the economic empowerment of the historically disadvantaged, but also recognises that the small business sector has suffered from decades of neglect." 

She added that she was pleased that the tide was turning.

“We are making steady, but significant progress towards making the small business sector a key player in our economy. We are determined to sustain this positive momentum," she concluded.